Why Use Open Source/Free Software?

There’s a lot of good reasons to use open source software, but here’s one more:

Forehead, meet brick wall. Wall, forehead.

Few things are as expensive and as frustrating as license issues surrounding a deadline.

You essentially have two options when it comes to software licensing in any organization involving more than one user.

1) Buy more licenses than you typically need. This ensures that everyone who needs to get into a program at crunch time can. This also means that most of the time, most of the licenses won’t be used. At anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 for typical engineering software, this is a huge overhead.

2) Buy the number of licenses you typically use on a daily basis. This keeps cost lower but ensures that around a deadline, more people will be trying to get in to a program than you have licenses for. This sets your work environment up to turn into a Survivor-esque triage of who needs to be in the software the most and who gets to sit at their desks, twitching, unable to do anything as the clock ticks past the deadline.

Contrast that with the flexibility of open source programs:

A while ago I was staying late working on a big rendering job using Blender. I had a couple different images and a couple different animations I wanted to do, but no access to a render farm and I didn’t want to stay at the office all night switching between jobs (each one was going to take 2-6 hours).

My solution was to load Blender on the next four fastest machines in the office, open up my file and start each one crunching on a task. I went home, got a good nights sleep, came back, and my rendering tasks were all complete and waiting for me.

There are certainly pros and cons to both sides of the coin, but for me the choice (when I have one) is pretty easy.

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